Just Mercy, the Innocence Files, & Solitary

Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy) & The Innocence Project (The Innocence Files) & Albert Woodfox (Solitary)

Both of these resources address the racism deeply rooted in our criminal justice system. It is important to remember that the issue of racism transcends far beyond profiling by police in the streets. The criminal/judicial system has remained comfortable exercising deplorably discriminatory policies/practices. We must realize this and make a change. These resources will both shed a light on the reality of wrongful conviction (transcend any of mistaken identity or lack of evidence to the contrary of guilt) and the horrors of being Black in prison (and prison conditions in general).

Review by Grace Ruane

Get Solitary at Loyola University Library.

Get Just Mercy at Loyola University Library.

Watch The Innocence Files on Netflix.


Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740

Anthony S. Parent. Jr.

Parent argues that the settlers did not only fall into a slave society but instead they manipulated laws consistently to enslave Africans. It also deconstructs the myth that all the settlers were great men who knew exactly what they were doing.

Get this book at Loyola University Chicago Library.

Review By Casey Terry

You Never Forget Your First: a Biography of George Washington

Alexis Coe

Not only is historian Alexis Coe one of the only women to ever write a biography on George Washington, she’s one of the only female historians to do so in over one hundred years. Drawing back the curtain on one of America’s original “Great Men”, Coe engages with archival sources to reveal the man behind the mythic figure. For example, one of the most popular enduring (and silly) myths is of Washington’s teeth being wooden. The truth is far more ghastly; the teeth came from slaves. Coe’s analysis coupled with her accessible writing style makes this the perfect introduction into presidential biographies for those often intimidated by the male-dominated genre. Her writing challenges us to question as to how men of American history are molded and warped into mythic figures, propped up as infallible figures of god-like proportions. We’re asked to challenge our belief in these figures and how we use their legacy. This biography properly introduces us to George Washington as he was and challenges how we remember and learn about the American Revolution and the men who led it.

Get this book at Loyola University Chicago Library.

Review by Erin Witt

Hidden Figures

Margot Lee Shetterly, 2016

This book documents and highlights the work of Black women who worked as mathematicians at NACA (which eventually becomes NASA post-WWII). Shetterly chronicles the personal and professional lives of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden as they navigate the plethora of challenges that come with being Black women during the 1940s-70s. Hidden Figures shows how this racism and sexism affected their professional goals of entering the white, male-dominated STEM field. Not ones to bow to societal pressures, these women built successful careers while having fulfilling and busy family lives as well. It beautifully blends rich, flowing prose with historical analysis and insight, making this a perfect introduction for those who haven’t read historical nonfiction before. It also challenges the dominant “white” image of NASA, ensuring that these “Hidden Figures” aren’t relegated to the shadows of history and rightfully brought into the spotlight.

Get this book at Loyola University Chicago Library.

Review by Erin Witt

Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America

Kristian Williams, 2007

A book on the history of police violence. “In this extensively revised and updated edition of his seminal study of policing in the United States, Kristian Williams shows that police brutality isn’t an anomaly, but is built into the very meaning of law enforcement in the United States. From antebellum slave patrols to today’s unarmed youth being gunned down in the streets, “peace keepers” have always used force to shape behavior, repress dissent, and defend the powerful”. 

Get this book at Loyola University Chicago Library.

Racism: A Short History

George M. Fredrickson, 2002 and 2015

Racism: A Short History explores the roots and manifestations of racism in the western world. Frederickson takes the time to break down the definition of “racism” and analyzing it in its different contexts. Frederickson examines western racism by focusing mainly on three “overtly racists regimes:” Nazis, American slavery, and South African Apartheid. Racism often utilizes elements of sociology to examine why racial hierarchies were formed the way they did.